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How to trim your lizards nails

lizard nail trimming While many species of lizards are docile and have small nails that will not require their nails to be trimmed, there are larger species such as iguanas and monitors that have large, sharp nails that are capable of inflicting scratches and even deep lacerations. Whether the scratches are defensive or the result of just "hanging on", the results are the same and normally not pleasant (unless you're a glutton for punishment). Whether you choose to trim your lizards nails is up to you. Some keepers don't believe in trimming as it is unnatural and wild animals don't have their nails trimmed. While it is true that they do not have their nails trimmed, they do however wear them down naturally whether it is via digging or climbing trees or rocky perches. Others believe that captive bred or wild caught animals that are in captivity do not have as great of a need for insanely sharp nails as they are not forced to survive on their own. Keep in mind that you are not removing the entire nail, just the needle sharp tip. We believe that if your lizard has frequent human interaction, whether it be at home or in an educational environment, then it is a good idea to trim its nails periodically.

Trimming the lizard's nails is the most common method of nail grooming. We recommend that the process be done by an experienced keeper, professional or a veterinarian. Any respectable person that works with reptiles should also be more than happy to teach you how to do it yourself. Once you are comfortable that you understand the procedure, you may choose to forgo having someone else trim them and do it at home to save yourself time and perhaps even money. Depending on the size of the lizard, you can use nail clippers that are made for people for smaller lizards or cat and dog nail cutters for larger specimens. Your cutters should be designated for reptile use only and not shared with people or other pets. Aside from the cutters, you may wish to have a towel, quick-stop or cornstarch (for bleeding) and depending on the size of the lizard, an assistant can prove very helpful. Use the towel to cover and restrain the lizard, leaving only the foot being worked on at the time exposed. Upon cutting the nail, only cut the needle sharp tip. If you cut too deep, you will cut the quick. If you cut the quick it will cause pain and bleeding. In most cases, the quick is identified by the presence of a dark line running down the length of the nail. In lizards with lighter colored claws, this is more easily seen. The quick is always going to be found from the actual toe and down the thickest part of the nail. If you feel you are not capable of safely cutting the lizard's nails, have an experienced person do it. On occasion, the quick will be hit which does cause some bleeding. This is when quick-stop or cornstarch becomes useful. Simply apply quick-stop or cornstarch to the cut nail with a Q-tip. While cornstarch is good in an emergency, we suggest that you invest in some product specifically for animal use, as they will often times have antibiotics to insure that no infection sets in.

Filing is another option. However, most lizards will not tolerate the prolonged time that it takes and will most definantly require two people. With the lizard restrained in a towel as described above, gently grasp the toe. Using a common nail file, file the tip of the nail down until you reach the thick part of the nail. While this is more time consuming, it is safer as it is a much slower process and allows one to judge just how much needs to come off.

In some instances, we even find it acceptable to use a battery operated filer such as Pedi-Paws to file some calmer lizard's nails.

Nail trimming is an otherwise simple and safe procedure once one understands how to do it. Never attempt to trim your lizard's nails if you are not confident that you can do it and not cause harm to your lizard.